First Lady (Queen) of Belgium
Donna Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia, First Lady (Queen) of Belgium
Paola, Queen of the Belgians (née Donna Paola Margherita Maria Antonia Consiglia, Princess Ruffo di Calabria; born 11 September 1937, Forte dei Marmi, Italy), is the queen consort of Albert II of Belgium. She is the seventh and youngest child of Fulco, Prince Ruffo di Calabria, 6th Duke of Guardia Lombarda (1884-1946). Her mother was Countess Luisa Gazelli di Rossana e di Sebastiano (1896-1989), a matrilineal descendant of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette. She is of Italian and Belgian ancestry and was hailed as one of the leading beauties of Europe in her youth.
The family of the Queen, the princes Ruffo di Calabria, are one of the most ancient lineages of Italy. The first proven ancestor of this House is Giordano, who was grand marshal of the Kingdom of Sicily at the beginning of the year 1200. The Ruffos were divided into two branches after the 14th century: the Ruffo princes of the Scaletta and the Ruffo di Calabria, to which branch Queen Paola belongs.
Her brother, the prince Fabrizio Ruffo di Calabria, the current head of the family, and bears the titles of Prince of Scilla, Prince of Palazzolo, Patrician of Naples, Duke of Guardia Lombarda, Count of Sinopoli, Marquis of Licodia Eubea, Count of Nicotera and Baron of Calanna and of Crispano.
Queen Paola is related to the main Roman-Italian aristocratic and noble families, such as Alliata, Colonna, Rospigliosi, Orsini, Pallavicini, including Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette the hero of American Independence, and Jean-Louis-Paul-François, 5th duc de Noailles.
Princess Paola Ruffo di Calabria married HRH Prince Albert, Prince of Liège, in Brussels, Belgium, on 2 July 1959. The couple have three children:
* Philippe, Duke of Brabant who married Countess Mathilde d’Udekem d’Acoz
* Astrid who married Lorenz, Archduke of Austria-Este;
* Laurent, who married Claire Louise Coombs.
Queen Paola speaks fluent Italian, French, English and German. Many people criticize her inability to speak Dutch, the mother tongue of nearly 60% of Belgians.